A carotid aneurysm is an aneurysm in one of the carotid arteries which supplies the neck and head with oxygenated blood. An aneurysm in this location is quite rare, but can become a serious medical issue for the patient. Treatment for is generally managed by a vascular specialist, who may work with other people such as a cardiologist to deliver the best care for the patient. In an emergency, a general surgeon may conduct work on the aneurysm if a vascular surgeon is not available for the procedure.
Aneurysms happen when the wall of a blood vessel becomes weakened and starts to dilate. The weakened area balloons, causing the side of the vessel to thin, and there is a risk that the aneurysm could rupture, potentially causing serious medical complications. In the case of a carotid aneurysm, the weakening occurs in one of the two carotid arteries which run along either side of the neck.
Age is a common risk factor for aneurysms in general. These aneurysms may also be caused by trauma, as from a knife injury, or by infection, including infection which has traveled from another area of the body, such as a heart valve. Patients with this condition risk further damage if they have high blood pressure. The aneurysm can also lead to blood clotting, which can in turn put the patient at a risk for strokes caused by interruptions in the brain's blood supply.
Sometimes a carotid aneurysm is not recognized until it has ruptured or caused a problem like a stroke. In other instances, it may be identified during a medical exam. Once a doctor finds the weakened area of the artery, medical imaging studies may be ordered to see how large the aneurysm is. For a patient with a small carotid aneurysm, the best treatment may be no treatment, paired with monitoring in case the area of blood vessel dilation gets larger.
If clotting is occurring, anticlotting agents may be administered to break up the clots and prevent additional clot formation. Blood pressure medication can also be used to manage a carotid aneurysm by lowering blood pressure to reduce stress on the vessel. In cases where the aneurysm is at risk of rupture, surgical techniques can be used to repair it, including endovascular techniques in which the procedure is done entirely inside the artery with the use of catheters inserted into the vessel.